The Partition Trail

Sampad is currently examining the social, cultural and emotional consequences of one of the most harrowing events in modern history, the Partition of India in 1947.

Supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), Sampad’s heritage project “The Partition Trail” will examine the complex legacy of the Partition and its lasting impact on communities in Birmingham and the West Midlands, particularly those of Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent.

Sampad’s project will capture personal memories from local people who were directly affected by the sweeping turmoil of the Partition, recording their first-hand experiences as well as uncovering stories that have been passed down through families. The 18 month initiative will also incorporate talks, learning workshops, an exhibition in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust and a public commemorative event.

On 15 August 1947, millions of people in the Indian subcontinent woke up to find that they had a new identity. They were no longer part of British India, instead they were either ‘Indian’ or ‘Pakistani’.

This was a result of monumental political decisions that were taken, as the British Government scrambled to ease its retreat from India and the Empire, against a backdrop of escalating political and social tensions within the subcontinent.

The Partition triggered the largest mass migration in human history, forcing the traumatic displacement of more than 14 million people as vast numbers of people moved across the border between the two newly formed states. It provoked horrific violence and resulted in the loss of an estimated two million lives.

Over the course of the decades that followed, prompted by a variety of factors, large swathes of people made the move from India and the newly created Pakistan, particularly from the divided state of Punjab, to settle in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Census records build a picture of the indirect influence of the Partition on patterns of migration and settlement in the region, which can still be recognised today.

Many of the themes within the project, such as the concept of changing national identity, invisible partitions in today’s society and the impact of migration on younger generations, remain globally topical today.

Urmala Jassal, Sampad’s Associate Director and project manager for The Partition Trail says:

“The Partition Trail will capture deeply-affecting accounts of one of the most significant moments in modern history. 2017 marks the 70th anniversary of India’s independence and local people who have first-hand memories of Partition are now in their seventies and older, so it’s increasingly vital to preserve their recollections to inform future generations. More widely, we hope that the real-life stories will also help people to develop a better understanding of the diverse, multi-ethnic communities of the West Midlands, while encouraging younger members of those communities to find out more about their cultural heritage”.

Vanessa Harbar, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, adds:

“South Asian migration to the West Midlands has played a significant role in shaping the culture and heritage of the region. We’re delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we can support Sampad Arts to explore and record this crucial part of the local community’s heritage, acknowledging its impact on the region and promoting better understanding in the wider community.

Image: Creative Commons, via pimu (Dr GN Kazi, Flickr), licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Produced by Sampad in partnership with Birmingham Museums Trust. Supported by the National Lottery through Heritage Lottery Fund and by The Radcliffe Trust, Grimmitt Trust and Limoges Trust.


Katy Wade | Project Coordinator for The Partition Trail (available Thurs-Fri) |